10 May 2023

Birthing services in Cape put on hold until 2023

| Matt Nicholls
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Birthing services at Weipa Hospital have been pushed back until early next year.

RECRUITING and retaining staff continues to be an issue for the Cape’s health service after it was announced that the opening of the Weipa birthing service would not start until next year.

The decision was announced last week by Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service chief executive Bev Hamerton.

“We had hoped to start birthing at Weipa before the end of this year but, as with all rural health services in Australia, we have faced some challenges around the recruitment of some key staff,” she said.

“We have recruited many of the medical and midwifery staff needed to open the service.

“However, the remaining staff required to provide a safe and sustainable birthing service are not due to commence until late January 2023.”

Ms Hamerton said a birthing service required access to qualified midwives, as well as medical staff with additional skills in obstetrics and anaesthetists necessary to support the service on a 24/7 roster.

“These staff are essential to ensuring that the service can provide a continuous medical and midwifery presence for both birthing and after-hours and emergency service if they are required,” she said.

“We ask for understanding as we work towards building this new service.

“We are focusing on ensuring that the Weipa community and women of the Western Cape have a birthing service in January that they can trust and is always available for women who are eligible to birth locally.”

Birthing services in the Cape has been a political football for both Labor and the LNP for the past decade.

The Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service believed the annual number of births in the region didn’t justify the millions of dollars that has now been spent at Cooktown and Weipa hospitals over the past few years to introduce the services.

However, when politicians get involved decisions are taken out of the hands of health boards.

The rollout at Cooktown has been problematic. Birthing services started before being put on pause so the hospital could undergo renovations.

Then, earlier this year, birthing was stopped again due to a lack of staff. It seems there is no start date in site for Cooktown.

“We understand the continuing suspension of birthing services at the Cooktown Multipurpose Health Service is a stressful time for expectant mothers and their families,” Ms Hamerton said.

“During this period, our wonderful team of skilled and dedicated midwives have continued to provide unwavering support and a commitment to maintain continuity of care to our community.

“They have also been supported with obstetric medical advice as needed via telehealth.

“The safety of mums and their babies is always our top priority.

“Birthing services will be reinstated at Cooktown when we can ensure the safe provision of care from a multidisciplinary team for mothers and their babies.

“We continue to recruit to vacant medical positions that led to the suspension of birthing services in February this year.”

While the start of birthing services at Weipa has been pushed back several months, expecting mums are already being supported by the Weipa Midwifery Group Practice team.

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